January 31, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• I was chosen as/rigged the voting to be a finalist for Vita.mn's "crush contest" and got invited to a photo shoot/party Wednesday night, so now there are more pictures of me on the internet. This one is my favorite because it perfectly shows the effect I have on women:

crush party

There's a lot more where that came from.

Jon Bois' season-ending edition of "Breaking Madden" is pure genius.

• Someone mapped out the location of every place mentioned in Tom Waits songs.

• I was an in-studio guest on KFAN for the first time in a couple months and Paul Allen basically staged an intervention. Depending on your point of view, it was radio gold or a train wreck.

The Onion is giving me some good ideas: "New Dating Website Helps Plus-Size Jewish Plane Crash Survivors Find Love."

• I thought about moving into one of the new "luxury apartments" in Uptown, but for better or worse various friends talked me out of becoming that type of person.

• I have a couple openings in my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports and the new season begins next week. If you're interested in joining, please read this first.

• This is just a great picture of Sid Hartman and Glen Perkins.

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode was recorded live in front of a 300-person crowd at Twins Daily's inaugural "Winter Meltdown" event, with special guests Twins president Dave St. Peter, my mom's favorite handsome athlete Scott Erickson, and Miguel Sano documentary filmmaker Jon Paley. I love the look on St. Peter's face as I ask him some dumb question:

st. peter meltdown panel

Me posing with Erickson is pretty good too.

• As a huge DMX fan and a frequent party bus passenger, this was amazing.

• Good collection of the Twin Cities' best late-night breakfast spots, including some of my favorites like Rye Deli and Hell's Kitchen.

Anna Kendrick is the best.

Elijah Aaron's cover of "No Scrubs" is as entertaining as the song could be without Chilli.

• Whole lotta Minnesotans flying to Colorado to get their legal pot on, but the true pros drive.

• As the world's biggest J. Cole fan his birthday gift from Jay Z made me smile.

Chipper Jones is a superhero.

• My idol Rob Neyer is leaving SB Nation for FOXSports.com.

Craig Calcaterra let his 10-year-old daughter write a guest post for HardballTalk.

• For the same money, would the Twins have been better off with Matt Garza or Ricky Nolasco?

• My favorite scene in television history:

Susie Greene is a saint.

• I wrote the Twins essay in this year's "Baseball Prospectus" book, which is now available.

• I'm glad the Twins finally put Chuck Knoblauch in the team Hall of Fame. He's one of the 10 best players in Twins history.

"Metrodome Lashes Out at Twins in Final Interview."

• Old friend Scott Baker signed with the Mariners.

Tina Fey was delightful on "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" with Jerry Seinfeld.

• I don't even like this song, but Kendrick Lamar screaming "tater tots!" is my new ringtone.

John Mulaney's stand-up special "New In Town" is one of the best hours of comedy I've ever seen and now it's on Netflix.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Dick Bremer net worth"
- "How much does Louis C.K. weigh?"
- "St. Louis fried rice"
- "How long can you survive without food?"
- "Aaron Gleeman height"
- "Geraldo Rivera vs. Frank Stallone"
- "Robin Thicke socks"
- "Sid Hartman old"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Bad Self Portraits" by Lake Street Dive:

January 29, 2014

Twins Notes: Nolasco vs. Garza, Suzuki vs. Pinto, Buxton vs. The World

matt garza twins

• In moving quickly to sign Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes early in the offseason the Twins seemingly signaled two things: One is that they really liked Nolasco and Hughes, believing they both represented good value within the context of this offseason's free agent starters. Beyond that, it also suggested that they felt the consensus top-tier starters from the class weren't worth parting with a draft pick to sign or would end up being out of their price range. Or both.

And yet two months after signing Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million contract the Twins watched as Matt Garza--considered by most people to be a more desirable free agent target--signed with the Brewers for a nearly identical four-year, $50 million deal. Garza, like Nolasco, didn't require forfeiting a draft pick to sign and at age 30 he's a year younger. But who's actually the better pitcher? Here are their numbers from the past three seasons:

           GS     IP     ERA    SO/9    BB/9    OAVG     GB%    xFIP     MPH
Garza      73    457    3.62     8.4     2.7    .245    43.8    3.46    93.5
Nolasco    97    596    4.29     6.6     2.1    .279    44.9    3.76    90.1

Garza missed some time with arm problems in 2012 and 2013, so Nolasco has a large innings edge from 2011-2013, but in terms of actually preventing runs Garza was much better. During that three-year span Garza posted a 3.62 ERA, compared to 4.29 for Nolasco, and within that he struck out 27 percent more batters while holding opponents to a batting average 34 points lower in less pitcher-friendly environments. His fastball velocity was also 3.4 miles per hour higher.

However, a lot of Nolasco's somewhat bloated ERA during that time stems from a .314 batting average on balls in play, which was the second-highest among all 84 pitchers to throw at least 400 innings from 2011-2013. By comparison Garza had a .293 batting average on balls in play during that same time, which was right in the middle of the pack. If you assume that the defense behind Nolasco was mostly to blame for all those extra hits falling in the two pitchers look much closer.

Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) attempts to remove luck from the mix by focusing on the factors a pitcher can control and Garza had a 3.46 xFIP from 2011-2013, compared to 3.76 for Nolasco. In other words Garza was still clearly better than Nolasco during the past three years, but it wasn't as large of a gap as their ERAs suggested and the gap shrinks even further once you account for durability. With that said, for the same price tag I'd rather have Garza than Nolasco.

• When the Twins signed Kurt Suzuki to a one-year, $2.75 million deal I noted that the biggest worry was Ron Gardenhire falling in love with the veteran and choosing to play him far more often than his performance warrants. Turns out it may not even take Gardenhire falling in love with Suzuki for that to happen, as Terry Ryan has already gone from hinting that Suzuki rather than Josmil Pinto will be the starting catcher to basically saying Suzuki has the job locked up.

Pinto may prove incapable of being a decent defensive catcher, but his offensive upside is sizable and at age 25 there's a chance that he could develop into a good all-around catcher. Meanwhile, in the past three seasons Suzuki hit .235/.290/.353 while throwing out just 25 percent of stolen base attempts and rating very poorly in pitch-framing analysis. Suzuki hasn't been a starting-caliber catcher since 2009 and the Twins are likely to be mediocre at best, so why not let Pinto play?

• This week MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN.com all published their annual top 100 prospect rankings and Byron Buxton holds the top spot on each list. Buxton will also soon be named the No. 1 prospect by Baseball America when their list comes out. My annual series ranking and profiling the Twins' top 40 prospects kicks off next week, covering five prospects each day in countdown form.

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode was recorded live in front of a 300-person crowd at Twins Daily's inaugural "Winter Meltdown" event, with special guests Twins president Dave St. Peter, former Cy Young runner-up Scott Erickson, and Miguel Sano documentary filmmaker Jon Paley. Come for St. Peter getting laughs at my expense and stay for Erickson telling dirty stories.

January 27, 2014

Gleeman and The Geek #130: Winter Meltdown with Dave St. Peter and Scott Erickson

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode was recorded live in front of a 300-person audience at Twins Daily's inaugural "Winter Meltdown" event, featuring special guests Twins president Dave St. Peter, former Cy Young runner-up Scott Erickson, and Miguel Sano documentary filmmaker Jon Paley, along with appearances by Parker Hageman and Seth Stohs. Listen as St. Peter gets laughs at my expense and Erickson wows the crowd with his handsomeness.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 130

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Mid-interview with St. Peter:

st. peter interview

Posing with my mom's all-time favorite baseball player:

aaron and scott erickson

January 24, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• Saturday night's Twins Daily event is almost sold out again even after jamming in some more tickets, but we're hoping to record the panel discussions for a podcast that everyone can listen to later and you can submit questions for Twins president Dave St. Peter and my mom's all-time favorite player Scott Erickson.

• Grantland's oral history of "Swingers" is really good and nicely presented too.

• I never knew goats fainting was an actual thing, but now it's all I can think about.

• If you're like me and think the law banning the sale of alcohol on Sundays is outdated, absurd, and annoying you'll want to sign this petition. It's the only political cause I've ever cared about.

• Having an essay in the new "Baseball Prospectus" book is one of the great thrills of my life and 18-year-old me would be giddy. It's ready for pre-order, with February 11 as the shipping date.

Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com put together an all-time single-season Twins team, although including the Senators kind of ruins it for me.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode John Bonnes couldn't stop laughing at me for being a human man who may or may not have attended a kite festival.

• I watched all 14 minutes of "pissed off goalies" and would have gladly watched another 14:

Patrick Roy seems like a maniac.

• This is my personal brand now.

• Three months ago police killed a guy in my neighborhood and now there was a SWAT team standoff, which is why I'm moving to Uptown for some peace and quiet.

• It wasn't really my style, but if you're looking for an apartment in Uptown that's spacious and charming with a really nice landlord go check out this place.

• If the Uptown move doesn't work out I'm thinking of just buying the house from "Roseanne."

• President Carter, Young Money Democrat.

• I'd kind of like to make a mockery of the Star Tribune's "crush contest," so go vote for me.

UPDATE: Mission accomplished, I guess.

Ricky Rubio was the cutest, again.

• Friend of AG.com Maggie LaMaack's unstoppable, take-no-prisoners media blitz continues, including this gem: "LaMaack, meanwhile, has shattered her iPhone again."

• If you don't know a woman who would wear these you're doing something wrong with your life.

• Sunday night I watched a grown man I consider a friend do this and I'll forever be thankful that we caught it on video:

If you're curious, he called that "super-manning" the beer pong table.

• This is what it looks like when I dress up and pretend to like soccer in the name of friendship and morning drinking. And I apparently saw something incredible happen.

Possum Plows' latest is a Frank Ocean duet cover, which as you might expect is directly in my wheelhouse.

Phil Mackey is Judd Zulgad's new co-host on 1500-ESPN, replacing Jeff Dubay and leaving Patrick Reusse on his own in the afternoons.

• I loved Morgan Murphy's new stand-up comedy special on Netflix.

Hannibal Buress is coming to the Varsity Theater next month. I saw him at Acme Comedy Company last year and he was fantastic.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Consistently good podcasts"
- "Was Denard Span once called the next Kirby Puckett?"
- "Former friends catching up"
- "Are people nicer now that you've lost weight?"
- "Marc Maron hair transplant"
- "Lizzy Caplan facial hair"
- "Did Joe Mauer switch teams?"
- "Why do men have beards?"
- "Aaron Gleeman at Stella's in Uptown"
- "Traveling to New Zealand"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Born Sinner" by J. Cole:

January 22, 2014

Twins Notes: Arbitration, Korea sales, Molitor shifting, and drugs of abuse

Philadelphia Phillies v Minnesota Twins

• As usual the Twins avoided arbitration with all of their eligible players, agreeing to pre-hearing 2014 deals with Trevor Plouffe for $2.35 million, Brian Duensing for $2 million, and Anthony Swarzak for $950,000. They previously non-tendered Josh Roenicke rather than paying him approximately $1.5 million via the same process. Following the Plouffe, Duensing, and Swarzak signings the Twins' payroll sits at $83 million, which is nearly identical to last season's spending.

Here are their payroll figures since moving to Target Field in 2010:

2010: $98 million
2011: $113 million
2012: $100 million
2013: $82 million
2014: $83 million

When the Twins signed Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes there was a lot of talk about how they were finally spending some money--and certainly within the context of free agency they opened their wallets like never before--but in the grand scheme of things nothing has really changed despite revenue across baseball rising rapidly. Barring a late acquisition their payroll will likely rank among the bottom third of MLB in 2014.

• It's not official yet, but Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the Twins are finalizing an agreement to sell Andrew Albers to a Korean team. Albers reaching the majors at age 28 and tossing 17 scoreless innings in his first two starts was a helluva story, but a mid-80s fastball and lack of missed bats made it tough to envision a scenario in which he was anything more than a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Once the Twins re-signed Mike Pelfrey in addition to signing Nolasco and Hughes it became clear that Albers wouldn't be getting another extended opportunity this season unless a ton of injuries struck the rotation. Going to Korea allows him to pitch regularly somewhere other than Rochester, New York and gives Albers a chance to make big-league money as opposed to Triple-A wages. And for a guy who was in an independent league a few years ago, that ain't bad.

• As part of his new job on the Twins' coaching staff Paul Molitor will be in charge of positioning the infielders defensively during games and Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com has an interesting note about his approach to those duties:

Molitor has already got a head start on positioning, as he met last week with Sean Harlin, the club's major league video director, and Jack Goin, the club's manager of major league administration and baseball research, to learn more about the club's video system and the advanced defensive statistics available for infield shifts.

The Twins haven't been a club that leans heavily on shifting aggressively in the past, but Molitor believes that baseball is trending that way and that it can help the Twins, especially given that the club has several ground-ball pitchers.

"The game has changed so much; we're seeing more overshifts and people not afraid to give up space based on tendencies, so it's something I'm excited about learning about and applying to the way we play defense," Molitor said. "They showed me the capabilities of not only pregame information but how we can use whatever data we have, including our in-house cameras at Target Field, to try to line up the defenses based on the pitcher's capability of executing pitches and the hitter's tendency of where they might hit the ball."

Those are the type of open-minded, analysis-driven quotes that we've rarely seen from anyone involved with the Twins over the years, which is awfully encouraging.

• Twins prospect Eddie Rosario received a 50-game suspension after a second positive test for a "drug of abuse." On one hand that means it wasn't a performance-enhancing drug. On the other hand that means Rosario tested positive once already and couldn't stop himself from continuing to use the unnamed drug. As a 22-year-old trying to make a position switch to second base the lost development time could be costly, but he remains a very good prospect.

Yohan Pino, who the Twins traded to the Indians for Carl Pavano in mid-2009, is back in the organization on a minor-league deal. Pino posted great numbers in the low minors before a lack of velocity caught up to him and now he's 30 years old with a 4.27 ERA in more than 800 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

Joe Benson, who was released by the Twins in the middle of what proved to be a lost season, is now with the Marlins on a minor-league contract. Benson is still just 26 years old, but injuries and the inability to make consistent contact at the plate have turned him into a non-prospect.

• Just as I feared at the time of the signing Terry Ryan has already dropped some hints that Kurt Suzuki could be the Opening Day catcher, with Josmil Pinto heading back to the minors.

• For a lot more about the arbitration process and how it works, plus a lengthy discussion about Molitor and embracing analytics, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

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